Secure your network
The components and the layout of your network will determine what you'll need to secure local computers, but some things are musts for any network that is connected to the Internet. A few simple preemptive measures can go a long way toward protecting your data and keeping your systems safe.
Security measures:1. Basic security 2. Antivirus software3. Software firewalls 4. Hardware firewalls
The first step to securing your network is to use the standard features that are built into your gear. Many networking devices come with security features that will protect your network against hacker attacks. If you are buying a broadband router, look for one with a NAT firewall and MAC address filtering. NAT firewalls conceal your network behind the router, and MAC address filtering allows you to grant or deny access to your network to specific machines. NAT usually runs automatically and requires no configuration. MAC address filtering requires you to enter the MAC addresses of the computers you want to allow or deny. Wireless-networking devices typically include WEP or WPA encryption. Both forms of encryption help protect your network, but WPA is much more secure than WEP. To implement WEP or WPA, you'll need to enter an encryption key on all of the wireless devices on your network; the product user manual typically includes a detailed explanation of how to do this. Some wireless devices add authentication schemes, such as 802.1x or LEAP, but these technologies are better suited to large enterprises than home or small-office use.
Things to consider about basic security features
• Do you have a NAT firewall between the Internet and your network?
• Have you enabled MAC address filtering?
• Have you enabled WPA or WEP encryption for your wireless clients?
• Do you need 802.1x or LEAP to connect with your office LAN?
Antivirus software A home or office network makes it easy for you to share files between computers, but that also makes it easier for viruses and worms to wind their way through your computers. Fortunately, you can immunize your computers with antivirus software. Antivirus software detects and eradicates viruses before they have a chance to spread. If you plan to connect your network to the Internet, antivirus software is a must.
Things to consider about antivirus software
• How long is the software automatically updated to detect new viruses?
• How fast does it scan for viruses?
• Does it scan and clean instant-messenger attachments?
• Does it come with a software firewall?
• Does virus eradication require your involvement?
Software firewalls When you open an e-mail message, an e-mail server somewhere on the Internet is sending the data to a certain port on your computer. A Web server uses a different port on your computer to send you a Web page, and an instant messenger yet another to send you a message. These are software ports, so you can't see them, but trust us, they're there. A firewall manages the data traffic coming to and flowing from your computer on specific ports--sometimes allowing data to get through, sometimes blocking it, and other times asking you if you want to permit a connection that is about to be opened. Most firewalls include a general set of rules about what is and what is not allowed, others may allow you to set your own rules.
Things to consider about firewall software
• Is it easy to install?
• Does it come with phone support?
• Does it come with antivirus software?
Hardware firewalls A hardware firewall works the same way as a software firewall but has certain other advantages. Whereas a software firewall must be installed on each computer in your network, a hardware firewall centralizes the control of connections between your network and the Internet, so you can be sure that all of the machines on your network are playing by the same rules. Hardware firewalls also use their own processors for port filtering and encryption tasks, which means that there is little or no resource drain on the computers in your network, giving you better overall performance. Some firewalls also allow you to set up VPN connections from the Internet to your personal LAN, providing you with a secure way to access your computers while you're on the road.
Things to consider about hardware firewalls
• How many ports does it have?
• Does it perform stateful packet inspection?
• Can it establish VPN connections?
• How many simultaneous VPN tunnels can it support?
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